How can I get more out of my sales team?

I'm satisfied with the sales staff I have, but think I should be getting another 10% out of them. I'm unsure what incentives to offer. Should I pay a better basic salary, or offer a low basic with big rewards for getting the sales in?

A. David Smith of Hewlett- Packard writes:

This is a productivity question. Whether it’s sales staff, factory staff or middle management, employees are less motivated by money than you probably think. The answer to your question is therefore not necessarily either of these options.

To get more out of your team you’ll need to look beyond pure monetary factors. Increased productivity requires a mix of strong community and team, good work/life balance, adequate training, and an element of self-motivation.

HP recently conducted some research (see: into how to motivate staff to improve business performance, and found that often it was the business leader’s approach to work that was limiting productivity.

The research identified different managerial styles, one of which was a ‘bottom-liner’; someone almost entirely focused on money. From your question it may be fair to assume that you fall into this category.

For bottom-liners, improved performance generally comes from focusing on the culture of the organisation: things such as work/life-balance, more flexible working options, increasing the perks of the job, such as new work-gadgets, team events and activities – and I don’t just mean organising a sales team meeting. It may sound ‘warm and fuzzy’, but it’s also about showing an interest in the lives of your staff, and acknowledging and enhancing the team-element of the sales role.

The odd ‘big carrot’ can also be very powerful, but you need to look beyond cash alone. When I was a trainee salesman the boss opened up the warehouse doors and there was a Mini in there, which the best-performing salesperson would drive away in, two months later – provided the team hit their target. The team spirit, coupled with competitiveness, helped drive productivity along. So, in terms of incentives, you should look beyond salary structures and consider ‘money-can’t buy’ type bonuses – concert tickets, holidays, paid days off, or even a car


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